The ‘Doorstep Selling’ regulations (The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008) came into effect on 1 October 2008 and bring new rights to consumers who make contracts with traders in their homes, places of work, other people’s homes, or in places that are not the usual business premises of the trader (for example a timeshare presentation in a hotel, or an approach made in a shopping centre).
The Regulations do not affect consumers’ rights under the Sale of Goods Act or Supply of Goods and Services Act. They were introduced to provide consumers with extra protection against assertive or forceful salespeople who make it difficult for consumers to say ‘no'.
In effect, the Regulations provide certain requirements for these types of transactions and allow consumers a right to cancel for a minimum of 7 calendar days after making the contract. If the trader is a member of the Direct Selling Association, consumers normally have a 14-day period within which to cancel the order.
At the time the contract is made, regardless of whether it is made verbally or in writing, consumers must be provided with a written notice of their right to cancel. The Regulations also contain extensive provisions relating to how this right to cancel can be communicated and how consumers can exercise their right to cancel. Not all transactions are covered, however.
The types of contracts that come under the Regulations are those for:
- gardening services;
- home improvement, maintenance and repair (including patios, conservatories and double glazing);
- energy supplies;
- personal items such as jewellery, clothes and cosmetics;
- household items; and
- health products and mobility and disability aids.
Both solicited and unsolicited visits are covered.
Those contracts that are not covered by the regulations include:
- any goods or services that cost less than £35 in total;
- perishable goods;
- newspapers and magazines;
- funeral goods and services;
- goods that are provided in an emergency; and
- bespoke or personalised goods.
It is also important to note that solicited calls to a consumer’s home concerning investments, insurance, regulated mortgages and home purchase plans are not covered.
The Regulations cover the situation in which a trader provides and the consumer starts to use the goods or services before the end of the cooling off period, but then cancels the contract. The consumer is required to pay in accordance with the reasonable terms of the contract for the goods/services up until the point of cancellation.
In these circumstances two things must have happened:
- The consumer must have confirmed in writing that they want the goods or services before the expiry of the cooling off period; and
- The trader must have given adequate notice in the right to cancel notice that the consumer may incur costs if they cancel in these circumstances.
The consumer must retain possession of the goods, take care of them and return them to the trader on cancellation.
Any consumer credit agreement attached to a transaction under the Regulations will also be cancelled at the time the main contract is cancelled, and any security provided by the consumer must be returned without delay.
If a trader fails to provide the notice of cancellation to a consumer, this is an offence punishable by a fine at level five of the standard scale (£5,000).
For information on the law relating to faulty goods, click here.